|The idea for TakingITGlobal was realized and developed in November of 1999; I was seventeen at the time and had been hired to work on a project called coolgirls.net. It was while I was working on that project that I realized the power of technology, and that I myself had the power to disseminate knowledge rather than just consume knowledge.|
Through my work with coolgirls.net I learned a lot about using technology as a platform for learning, expression and dialogue.
The idea for TakingITGlobal was realized and developed in November of 1999; I was rollerblading with a friend and we were speaking about different possibilities and what we wanted to do with our lives. I was in my first year of university and I was speaking about what I wanted to study but also more broadly about how I wanted to apply myself in the world, and what impact I could have.
We talked through different ideas, we thought that although technology has created the potential for a global community there didn’t exist a place, or at least one that we could connect to, where we could connect with youth from all over the world who wanted to make a difference.
We wanted to address that divide; we lay all of our ideas out on paper, and we shared them with people we knew. My friend and I had both been part of a book launch and we were connected to a few influential people, so for nine months we basically networked and talked to the different people we could access in order to get feedback and figure out how we could implement our idea.
Originally, we wanted to have a physical resource center where people could come in and have access to different tools and resources, but we weren’t able to get funding for that, so we decided we could start off with a virtual resource center. We realized that we could create an online community. We were able to get some research funding from a Fortune 500 company. With that we were able to buy some computers, laptops, and attend a few events.
In addition to growing our own online community, what we mainly did initially was to create websites for other companies. We were exploring how to achieve our vision in a way that was complementary to other existing groups, we thought about what we could add to strengthen their efforts and connections, and how we could add value.
When I started TIG I was a university student, and around the time we came up with TIG my friend Mike and I were hired by Microsoft. At that time I was in a pretty secure position financially; because of my job with Microsoft I was able to pay for my own school, I didn’t have to pay rent, I was living at home, and so there was less pressure for me financially. That put me in a pretty secure position, although eventually my parents started getting skeptical. Normally as a student you don’t make very much money, you don’t feel the expectation to save; your goal is to avoid debt. I would say that as a student I didn’t have financial goals. In 2002 I started to draw a salary, it was very modest but at some point you need to be able to be making money. You don’t want to have several jobs in order to work. My financial expectations were lower, partly because I was a student, partly because TIG was seen as an extra-curricular activity. They viewed TIG as an extra-curricular activity and they were also a bit worried because it ended up taking me four years instead of three to finish my undergraduate program. My parent’s biggest skepticism revolved around their hopes for my education; my mom was unable to complete her university education and she very much wanted me to finish mine. I dealt with that by letting my actions speak for me, and finishing my degree.
I think we need to set goals for ourselves that aim high but we also need to be able to have quick successes as much as possible. It’s important not to compare factors. For instance, what enables you to do a certain thing might not apply to me because I might not have that enabler. You need to figure out what your enabler is, what resources you have access to, what you can achieve. I’m constantly still facing barriers, and everyone has different barriers. One of the biggest things I had to deal with was pushing myself to the point where I tired myself out and sacrificed my own health. One of our partners is a mother of three, and she’s pursuing her dreams; but she has to realize that if she’s working until one in the morning there are other responsibilities that will be compromised, and so maybe the way she deals with that is to make more strategic use of her time.
Starting a new initiative does put you at the risk of burn out. And if I’m not mindful, if I don’t book time to work out, make sure that I have food, time to spend with friends, then I reach a point of over-exhaustion. But I try to be preventative. If you need to rest because you’re over-exhausted then you don’t enjoy it.
People say you can do things based on who you know, but who you know doesn’t necessarily have to be limited to who you actually know. In some ways that’s what we’re trying to do through TIG, helping people overcome barriers and connecting people. Networking is a really powerful tool. One of the barriers to getting things going is a lack of resources, but through networks you can access resources. For instance, our first offices for TIG were at the YMCA, and we were able to make that happen because we knew someone whose dad was on the board of the YMCA.
One of the biggest challenges you can face is to feel that you’re not understood when you’re surrounded by people who share the general sense of what you’re doing. There was one point when I was feeling down and I posted a blog on the site, and within a few hours people responded with words of encouragement or helped me to think about the problem in a new way, which was exactly what I needed. Something that has been really rewarding for me is that now when I go to different conferences and events, people will tell me about how they’ve been impacted by TIG. The other thing that’s rewarding is getting feedback from people; it’s rewarding when people engage critically.
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